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Villányi Franc & Franc

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Tokaj might be the most famous and world-renowned Hungarian wine region. But ask a local what region they want to visit for a wine holiday and many will answer Villány.

Located in the south, Villány was the first region to begin the quest for quality after the fall of communism. They have worked hard to position themselves as the premier red Hungarian wine region (the contenders are Szekszárd, Eger, and Sopron).

Cabernet Franc or Villányi Franc?

The name of the game in Villány is Cabernet Franc.

During a barrel tasting session in 2000, wine writer Michael Broadbent declared “Cabernet Franc has found its natural home in Villány!” Since then, the region has focused on making the grape its signature variety. Wines made from Cabernet Franc that are of exceptional quality can be labeled “Villányi Franc” after inspection and passing blind tastings by the committee. These wines are often the signature bottlings from producers.

Cabernet Franc is so important that Villány holds an annual conference dedicated to the variety. I attended the 2019 “Franc & Franc” conference and had the chance to spend time with producers. It was my fourth time visiting the region over the last two years.

Classicus, Premium, Super Premium

In order to understand the wines, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the classification system.

Villány was the first region to earn a protected denomination of origin after communism in the early 1990s (even before Tokaj). In 2005, the region adopted a quality control system. If wines want to carry the Villány stamp they must meet specific criteria under the Classicus and Premium classification. In 2015, Villány added a third classification Super Premium which only applies to wines made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Wines from this new classification just started reaching the market.

The Villány crocus marks a wine with protected origins.
  • Classicus: This category covers most of the wines produced in Villány. All of Villány’s permitted varieties can carry this classification.
  • Premium: This category contains those wines that meet rigorous criteria than those set for the previous category. All of Villány’s permitted varieties can carry this classification.
  • Super Premium: This category is reserved for high-quality wines that are made of 100% Cabernet Franc. There are strict requirements, including yield restrictions and passing blind tastings. Super Premium wines must spend at least one year in oak barrels and another year in bottles before release and must be labeled as Villányi Franc.
Super Premium Villányi Franc from Csayni/Château Teleki.

Just to make things more confusing, wines in the categories of Premium or Super Premium are allowed to be labeled Villányi Franc. Classicus wines made from Cabernet Franc must be labeled Villányi Cabernet Franc.

This classification system is not a surefire guarantee of quality. There are beautiful wines that receive the Classicus label and some Super Premium wines that are marked by overuse of oak. There are also a number of extraordinary wines in the Premium category that cannot be considered Super Premium because they are not 100% Cabernet Franc.

Other Villányi Wines

Cabernet Franc may be the grape that the region hangs its hat on but Villány is no one-trick pony. There are impressive wines made from Bordeaux blends, Portugieser, Kadarka, Syrah, and Kékfrankos. In fact, the latter two grapes perform well in Villány. In my opinion, they may actually be the best two suited for the region. If you track down a Villányi Syrah or Kékfrankos, don’t hesitate to try it.

White wines are usually a disappointment in Villány, save for an occasional solid Chardonnay here and there. There is plenty of Olazsrizling planted in Villány but most of the wines produced from it are simple quaffers. Here are my favorite wines from the few days at the 2019 Franc & Franc.

Wine Recommendations:

  • Lelovits Tamás, Villányi Cabernet Franc 2017

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Lelovits Tamás is a small, family-run cellar. Their Lelovits Tamás Villányi Cabernet Franc has notes of black cherry, black raspberry, tobacco, pepper, and capsicum with judicious use of oak. It’s a riper Cabernet Franc but one that’s under control. The oak adds good tannin here, it’s an additive and not a detractor. Score: 90/100

  • Bakonyi, Makar 2016

Péter Bakonyi is one of Villány’s brightest, young stars. The Bakonyi Makar is made from Cabernet Franc. This is ripe with flavors of black cherry, caramel, black olive, and earth. Full in body with a violet undertone and uplifting acidity. The tannins are firm but not aggressive. Score: 90/100

  • Gere Attila, Fekete Járdovány 2016

Fekete Járdonvány is a pre-phylloxera grape variety that used to be widely planted in Villány. Now Gere Attila is the only producer who bottles it. This is not just unique but delicious. Notes of black raspberry, pepper, stems, and black tea. Almost like a blend of Syrah and Fetească Neagră, this is geeky and delicious. Score: 90/100

  • Heumann, ‘Trinitás’ Villányi Franc 2016

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

The Heumann, ‘Trinitás’ Villányi Franc is made from Cabernet Franc. This has more of an old-world style to it, with plenty of charm. Notes of dried cherry, cappuccino, cedar, and chocolate notes. This is full-bodied and round with beautiful tannins. The only detractor here is that I’d like to see a touch longer finish, which would lift the wine to a big-time score. Score: 91/100

  • Sauska, Cabernet Franc 2015

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

The Sauska Cabernet Franc is simply a fine example of the grape. Notes of cherry, violets, and black olive are in this full-bodied Cabernet Franc with serious tannins. It reminds me of the examples from Tuscany and should do well in the cellar over the next ten years. Score: 90+/100

  • Mokos, Villányi Franc 2015

The Mokos Villányi Franc is a super premium Villányi wine. For a big wine, it’s very pretty with notes of dark cherry, crushed rose petal, cedar, and tobacco. This is full-bodied, round, and might stand out in a Bordeaux tasting. Grippy tannins and a long finish. Score: 92+/100

  • Weninger & Gere, Cabernet Franc Selection 2006

During a tasting of older Villányi Francs, the Weninger & Gere Cabernet Franc stood out the most. It’s one of the first Hungarian wine producers that impressed me and this wine has another ten years left in the cellar.

It’s not overly powerful on the nose but there are wonderful savory notes of mushroom, crushed tobacco, and mud on the palate. A core of dried dark fruit on the round and pleasurable mid-palate. Intensity on the finish with developed tannins. Score: 93/100

  • Tiffán’s, Grande Selection 2011

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Edi Tiffán was one of the first producers in Villány to chase quality in the 1990s. When we visited the cellar, he opened a number of archive wines from his collection. The Tiffán’ Grande Selection is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. It’s a developed red wine with notes of capsicum, tobacco, cherry, plum, and cedar. This has a core of sweet red fruit and sweet tobacco at the center. The nose is shy but the palate is concentrated and the tannins are firm. Score: 92/100

  • Gere Tamás & Zsolt, ‘Várerdő-dűlő’ Villányi Franc 2012

The Gere Tamás & Zsolt, ‘Várerdő-dűlő’ Villányi Franc is a premium level, single-vineyard wine. Very traditional and old-world in style with plenty of savory flavors in addition to the dried cherry, mushroom, and leather notes. This is very complex, there are notes of bottle age and earth to accompany the fruit. Complex finish and developed tannins. Score: 91/100

  • Bock, 70+ Cuvée 2017

Bock is one of the most known producers in Villány. Many of his premium wines have lots of oak and structure. The Bock 70+ Cuvée is exactly the opposite of that.

This is a blend of Kékfrankos, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. There’s not a lot of wood here. It’s full of red fruit, graphite, fall leaves, and pepper. Medium-bodied and juicy with a low level of tannins. It’s fruity, fun, and delicious with a long finish. Score: 92+/100

  • Rácz Miklós Tamás, ‘Diósviszló’ Poudre Noire 2017

Villány is generally not the best region for Pinot Noir. That hasn’t stopped this tiny, high-quality producer. It’s one of the best examples of the grape in Hungary.

The Rács Miklós Tamás ‘Diósviszló’ Poudre Noire is a very solid effort. There are notes of ripe raspberry, fall leaves, pepper, and violets. It’s medium-bodied with a silky mouthfeel. Very good Pinot Noir, it should age gracefully in the medium term – if you can be patient. Score: 90/100

  • Csayni/Teleki, Kővilla Cuvée 2015

Find or buy on Wine-Searcher.

Csayni Pincészet aks Château Teleki is one of the largest producers of Hungarian wine. That doesn’t mean that the quality is low though. The Kővilla Cuvée is a blend of Kékfrankos with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It shows ripe red berry fruits with pepper and a kiss of oak. The wine doesn’t show the greatest complexities in the world, but it does show impeccable drinkability and enjoyment. This is a fantastic bottle that delivers big-time value-for-money. Score: 90/100

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The cover photo is courtesy of the Villányi Borvidék website. Thanks to Villány Borvidék for providing entrance and accommodation at Franc & Franc 2019. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

DR MATTHEW HORKEY
DR MATTHEW HORKEY
Author | Speaker | Wine Nerd
https://exoticwinetravel.com

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